SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court says a Sikh congregation can have a 75-member temple on land zoned for agriculture in Sutter County.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision Aug. 1 stemming from a lawsuit the Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City brought under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The act says land-use officials cannot impose “substantial burdens” on the freedom of religion unless there is a compelling need.
A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based appeals court upheld a lower court ruling requiring the county to grant the Sikh group’s conversion of a house in the unincorporated territory of the county for use as a temple.
Neighbors had complained over the temple’s first bid to locate in a residential part of Yuba City, so it acquired land in a rural, agriculturally zoned area in 2002. The county denied the temple, saying it amounted to disorderly development, or “leapfrog development,” because it was away from the city.
The appeals court said the county’s actions were unfair to the religious group because it concluded that government officials would never approve a site.
The case is Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City v. Sutter County, 03-17343.